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JEWELERS THWART SCAM; TWO ARRESTED

The deal sounded too good to be true. So, of course, it was.

Earlier this month, a man walked into a suburban jewelry store, flashed about $45,000 worth of diamonds and agreed to sell them for far below their value. And the man wanted cash.

The jeweler didn't fall for it, and the seller left.

"I knew something was wrong," the jeweler said Friday. "It was too good to be true."

Word spread among jewelers, and when a similar attempt occurred Thursday, that awareness helped police nab two New Jersey men. They were arrested and accused of trying to sell some bogus diamond earrings and a diamond ring to a Cheektowaga jeweler.

The Cheektowaga jeweler, at Tag Diamond and Jewelry Co. on Dick Road, already had been warned about the scam, so he had someone call Cheektowaga police.

Police officers arrived at the scene and charged Wali Hill, 36, of Elizabeth, N.J. and Alex Melvin, 37, of East Orange, N.J., with attempted grand larceny.

Authorities believe similar attempts to sell the jewelry have been made locally and in other states.

"Now we're starting to get hits from police agencies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that Hill is wanted for at least six other similar crimes," Capt. James P. Morath of the Cheektowaga police said Friday.

Buffalo police also are investigating a similar case, reportedly involving the theft of tens of thousands of dollars.

One intended target explained how the scam worked.

"He comes in with a bunch of real diamonds," he said. "They're big and expensive. He shows them, and when the jeweler gives him the money, he exchanges them for the fakes, or attempts to. He's basically a magician."

This jeweler, who agreed to discuss the case on condition of anonymity, explained that suburban jewelers have formed an informal network for such incidents.

"If somebody gets hit, we call each other up," he said. "So these people can't get away with it more than once."

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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